Aged care pay increase needs more than workforce compact


The Aged Care Workforce Compact, announced this week by Minister Mark Butler, will not see all aged care staff receive pay increases and will not change aged care’s low wage status, according to a member of the Minister’s Advisory Group that advised on the Compact’s content.

Catholic Health Australia (CHA) CEO Martin Laverty, who represented Catholic aged care providers on the Minister’s consultative group, said it was not clear how many aged care services would take up the new Compact.

"The success of the Compact will be determined by the number of providers who take it up," Mr Laverty said.

"It will suit some providers, and not suit others. It would be unfortunate if some aged care staff miss out on pay increases or receive smaller increases as a result."

Mr Laverty said two elements of the Compact will ultimately determine how many aged care providers sign on to its conditions.

"The first element is the Government’s requirement that an aged care provider operating 50 beds or more must enter into or amend their existing enterprise agreement to ensure compliance with a set of Government objectives," Mr Laverty said.

"A government contract for services should not in our view stipulate an industrial outcome. Aged care providers and their staff should be free to determine above award employment arrangements at a local level, reflecting the circumstances in their workplace.

"The Minister, however, deserves credit for having made concessions in response to arguments CHA put to him. Community aged care providers without enterprise agreements will not need one, nor will residential care providers of 50 beds or less."

Mr Laverty said the second element will be determined by maths.

"Every aged care service is different, and their income and expenditure varies. Some aged care providers will do the sums and find they can meet the new wage, superannuation and work cover insurance costs," Mr Laverty said.

"Other providers will find they are not able to fund the costs the Compact imposes. It’s not clear how many aged care providers might end up in this category – that’s a matter of great concern.

"The work of nursing and care staff in aged care is so important. They deserve higher wages in line with those in the health sector. This will only happen when the Government adopts a funding system for aged care that supports fair and competitive wages, as recommended by the Productivity Commission.

"As a first step, pending research into what it now costs to deliver aged care services, the Government has an opportunity to better index funding in the 2013-14 Budget."

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